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Old 02-11-2010, 11:16 AM
Location: Monterey Bay, California -- watching the sea lions, whales and otters! :D
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I am starting this thread as an extension of the "Retiring on a Shoestring" thread, because it is different than living costs and how to make it while we are still independent.

I have pasted two posts from that thread that pretty much sums up what this thread is about, and it would be interesting to hear from others about how they feel about this subject. I realize it is an emotional topic, however, many of us are now starting to realize that old-age (if we live that long) is inevitable, and with it, the consequences of, perhaps, bad health, disease, loss of mind, lack of money, resources and family, and other issues that may make us want to re-think how we go about crossing the threshold into another world....

My hope is that this will generate constructive ideas, values and resources for we Baby Boomers who will be the biggest wave of longest living people at this point in time. Unfortunately, with this huge wave of Boomers, there will not only be many hurdles to get over, but also, I assume, a large gap between wealthy and not-so wealthy. I do believe this will be a societal issue.

To compound matters, the Baby Boom generation is not one to take things lightly. We are mostly educated, aware, have had many life experiences, traveled, done things that many in previous generations did not do. We were the front-runners in many societal issues, and I believe we will also change the way society views life, death and issues surrounding the end of life. It is sad to think we are approaching that point in life where this topic has risen, however, it is realistic. As Baby Boomers, I also feel we have very creative ideas, we are transformative thinkers, and we are not afraid to try new things. It is an unusual generation, and I think we can provide new ideas and ways to transform old-age in this society.

I'm wondering how others feel about this -- ideas, resources, links, personal experiences, and anything else that could help us to redefine old age in this country would be appreciated. Thanks, folks!

TriciaJeanne: A similar line of thought was expressed by a pretty young guy (maybe 22 years old) on the retirement thread - I believe he said he didn't want to live to be "old" and it caused quite a ruckus. Others either in that thread or in another talked about the bleak outlook for aging and why they didn't want to go there, based on either the media hype today or what they were witnessing with parents and/or grandparents. I actually can relate to much of what they were saying.

I am thinking of aging and the subsequent issues that arise maybe with a pollyanna mentality but the alternative is......???????? When I read about the cost of nursing homes, assisted living, memory care units etc, well, I'm not going to think on those things and I'd agree with Motley Crew's approach/I'm going to draw up something as well as talk seriously to my kids (we've already had some of these conversations) about quality of life and all that stuff.

I spent this time last year working with an aunt (my mother's youngest sister), figuring out places she could go as living in her apt appeared not to be an option any longer. In the process, we discovered she was living like a pauper but needn't have. She had sufficient funds and I arranged, at her request, to get her into an independent living situation. I'm assuming she went down hill or something because things got very weird after that and I bowed out, turning the situation over to "her favored niece" and saving my poor mom the agony of hearing about how I was botching everything up (no good deed goes unpunished).

But I got a glimpse of the various stages of institutional aging for the well-off as well as for the not-so-well-off and frankly, it offended my sensabilities at the incredible cost if you could afford it as well as the inequity of decent living conditions for those who were less-financially set. Perhaps one could say that there will always be disparity in what people have but it should offend us when we see elderly people warehoused. It should offend us when we see any age group warehoused. It is exceptionally pitiful to think that that is where a life of living can end.

So with that said, I'm not going to blow what I have saved but I'm also not going to fret about what is to come - I can't "redo" my life now to have enough to put away to insure myself against what might happen. I wasn't totally frivelous by any means but made some good decisions and some bad, and then of course, life happens and throws you a few curves.

Actually, after having owned homes and figuring that nest egg, I got caught in the downturn of the economy and lost that/suddenly, there is no "paid off home" so expenses will naturally increase though my available cash likely will not. While home ownership is a pain in the neck in many ways, the idea of a more fixed debit side of life could be comforting (I'm trying to feel better by figuring in the issues of property tax/homeowner's ins/things that break and go bump in the night, all of which are less insidious when renting although in time, they do pass over to the renters by the landlord's need to make a profit on investment)

I'm enough of a "boomer" to say something is not right with this picture. I hope that there are enough of my generation to be bothered by it that maybe we institute some changes in what appears to be the coming state of affairs.

This is lengthy but honestly, I think when quality of life is dictating that my children go bankrupt in order for me to receive humane care or I have to go into a totally spartan existance for the next 15/20/30 years in order to be treated decently for the following 10, well, I'll just opt to not take medications that are keeping me alive and just close my eyes. I have to figure that a natural event would follow such an approach in due time. If this is a worse alternative than what I'm hearing on this board, I don't see it.
I am glad this was finally brought up as a topic. I was just talking to a friend the other day and we both agreed that probably we would go that approach. I know of a woman in town who was quite wealthy (she easily could have afforded excellent care), and she was very spiritual and believed in a spirit world. She was 100 when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I had talks with her in the past, so I knew her ideas about life.

There was a big article in the paper about her turning 100, but also that she had been diagnosed with this terminal cancer. Three days later, she was dead. I did not ask, but my feeling was that she had her family over, of course at 100 her kids were older, too, and she had assisted suicide of some sort -- maybe just taking extra pills. She was not the kind of person who would go into a nursing home, she did not have dementia, she had lived a good, long life, and I think she did not want to bother with the next six months of horrible disease, hospitalization, tubes, etc., when she was only going to die anyway. So, she made a choice to have an honorable death with peace and dignity, her family nearby and to go earlier than the doctors had planned. I respect her for that.

My father currently has Alzheimer's -- it is very depressing to me because I am the oldest in the family and I remember different times than my siblings because I had different experiences. He is in a nursing home now, but a fairly nice one, and he seems happy -- although his natural personality was happy. But...he still does not remember much. It is sad to see someone of his calibre losing his mind. Of course, we love him, but I don't think he wanted to go like this.

I would opt for assisted suicide if I knew that I either had Alzheimer's (or was getting to the point that I would no longer recognize my own child, or remember my life), or a terminal disease that would require inordinate amounts of money just to let me end up dying anyway in the end.

The only way I would want to stay alive is if I had my mind intact and I could still share in my child's life. If not, there is no point. If death is at the doorstep anyway, I might as well just walk through. That's how I feel.

This is an inhumane society in many ways. Our capitalism has torn the classes in such ways that there is no humanity (that I see) and everything is about the money. I have never been a materialistic person, and for me it is very painful to see the worship of money over the care of others. I get so sick and tired of ads trying to get people to consume, consume, and buy, buy, buy.

As a trained social worker, I can tell you there is no respect for those who help the underdog. The pay is awful for anyone wanting to help, unless you're a Bill Gates who is already wealthy (and he even got his money on the back of someone else because he didn't even invent the operating system used in Microsoft, but bought it from some guy decades ago for $50,000 and that guy lost out -- Bill sold it to IBM .... and you know the rest of the story).

With families spread out, lack of generosity -- I have a family member who is well worth over a million dollars, and although it's not her money but her husband's, she still gives out used items as Christmas presents -- how cheap is that? Although for herself, she buys, buys, buys. A typical capitalist who does not care for others, but just uses words as lies to try to convince people she cares....unfortunately, those who know her, know the truth.

So, I know for a fact that family is not there for me, except my child, and that would not be fair to have her take care of me as she is very young (I was a menopausal mom). I would rather discuss it with her and if the option is I will end up in a hospital hooked up to tubes and stuff, and a painful death; or if I realize I am losing my mind and Alzheimer's is setting in but I have enough cognizance to understand it, then I will be happy to gather together many meds and take them -- with a "good-bye" party beforehand.

With all the Boomers out there, it will definitely be class warfare -- those who are extremely wealthy will have all the comforts of care they need; those who don't will end up in those warehouses. And what's the point? Either you don't recognize people, or you're going to die soon anyway -- why not make it a celebration of the life you've had, and go more peacefully and surrounded by those you love on your own terms?

And that's how I feel about it at this point in time -- I doubt I will be grasping for that last breath in some hospital room or (as long as I can prevent it) go into a netherworld of non-memories and vegetate into death.

A depressing subject in some ways, but I think a necessary dialogue. Perhaps we should start a thread about this particular topic??

Last edited by Wisteria; 02-11-2010 at 12:13 PM.. Reason: typo
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Old 02-11-2010, 11:27 AM
Location: Monterey Bay, California -- watching the sea lions, whales and otters! :D
1,918 posts, read 6,240,303 times
Reputation: 2641
Originally Posted by Bideshi :
Suicide for any reason?! Why should it be like this? We have worked all our lives keeping the water running, the lights turned on, the airplanes flying, the nation safe from foreign invaders, only to be ignored and left to perish when we can no longer contribute to the bottom line?
MN2CO: I understand what you are saying. I, and most people here, would never have thought of such a thing in the past. After all, who planned on ever getting old The closer we get and the more we accept these ugly possibilities, we are forced to really think about it. We are forced to make plans for that stage in our lives. I don't see good changes in future care for the boomers happening, especially with our economy. My mother died within 3 months of entering the nursing home - I believe she chose to die and, mind over matter, made it happen. No one wants to live like that, especially if you were a vibrant person. Rather than spend whatever $$ I have left being miserable, I'd rather see it used in a more productive way. Besides, I'm going to the Rainbow Bridge - I have quite a few critters waiting for me Just a note - I don't foresee this happening for a long time so don't get any ideas that I'm planning anything in the near future!
I hope you both do not mind that I copied from the "Retiring on a Shoestring" thread and pasted your comments here, as they are very valid and timely. Thank you, and hope that was okay...
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Old 02-11-2010, 11:35 AM
Location: Edina, MN, USA
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Default Wisteria, thanks for starting this!

This should be a very interesting thread
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Old 02-11-2010, 11:58 AM
Location: Monterey Bay, California -- watching the sea lions, whales and otters! :D
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Thanks, MN2CO! I'm glad you already started on the other thread! I also love the term of the "Rainbow Bridge," because I have many loving critters on the other side, too!

As for "rituals," that I mention in the title, I wanted to relate a story about someone I know.

A co-worker of mine who was roommates with a well-known individual (I won't name names), was devastated when her roommate ended up in the hospital due to congestive heart failure -- she was only in her sixties.

However, as part of a group of strong women, they had already designed a "ritual" for those who were dying. As their friend lay semi-conscious in the hospital room, they had a "ritual" ring, which was a corny, big ol' plastic ring like from a Cracker Jack box, and put it on her finger. It was something they had done before with others. There were jokes and laughter, and even they were saying, "Geez, we're already splitting up her things and her body isn't even cold yet!"

At any rate, she did die, and it was very sad for all. Fortunately, her time in the hospital was short, but it was still unexpected. However, this simple ring ritual was a way to connect, to carry on, and to use it for other friends at their end of life.

I also know that sometimes people do "Life Masks" of their faces before they die -- a way to immortalize the person. I think this is a great idea. Just like kids do in classes, sometimes, they made a plaster cast of his face (another well-known individual -- I hate to name names if I'm not given permission). At any rate, the plaster cast was his idea, and it was quite a wonderful success, from what I understand! It may seem morbid to others, however, these friends had fun with it and so did the dying man, who I may add, kept up a social internet network until the end!

Are there rituals you are aware of with friends or family of your own that make the transition to the other world easier, more "fun," or just more palatable given the situation? Any other ideas of what people could do to make it more a celebration of their life while still alive, and help us all to start coming to terms with the inevitable?

Yes, MN2CO, I hope this thread brings up some very innovative ideas, and we can get past the sadness of death, and start finding ways to celebrate our lives, families and accomplishments before we depart this world!
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:47 PM
Location: Nashville, Tn
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Unfortunately there are many people who end up spending many years in nursing homes and their lives are absolutely miserable. One of my aunts must have spent twenty years in one of them before she finally died and another aunt spent a few years in one which caused alot of turmoil with her two adult children because they had to pay for it and one of them really couldn't afford it.
Personally I feel that if life becomes unbearable and the future is only going to get worse then I see no reason to continue living. I'm not religious and don't believe that I'm going on to some spiritual realm when my body dies. I also have no qualms about suicide although things would really have to be horrible before I'd even consider such a thing.
The problem as I see it is that we're able to prolong life due to medical advances but in many situations it's not going to be a happy or fulfilling life. Also, from a purely practical point of view a great deal of the medical expenses that the typical individual has in a modern western nation occurs when they're elderly and death isn't that far in the future but they have very expensive medical procedures which often just prolongs their life for a short period of time. I would never suggest that we should withhold medical care from someone who desperately wants it but I feel the same way my Mother does. She's 79 and fortunately still healthy and active but she feels that if she comes down with some illness that will eventually cause her death that she would prefer to just let nature take it's course rather than going through the misery of extensive medical treatments.
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:08 PM
Location: Monterey Bay, California -- watching the sea lions, whales and otters! :D
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Montana Guy: I feel the same way my Mother does. She's 79 and fortunately still healthy and active but she feels that if she comes down with some illness that will eventually cause her death that she would prefer to just let nature take it's course rather than going through the misery of extensive medical treatments.
I agree. That natural life span of so many people has been extended way beyond any quality of life – they are just breathing corpses….morbid, but that's the phrase that popped into my mind.

The irony is that we actually love the people who are going to die (well, okay, I concede that I will not cry over the death of my ex-husband! ). I think more families and friends could be involved in this issue and create a "party," rituals, celebrations that the dying person can actually participate in! It would be a lot more fun (even if you're dying) to be around people you care about, to share jokes and stories, and maybe do some project together, or something that the rest can keep with them as a strong memory of their friend/family who have died.

I have thought of doing collages for my friends. Photos from the past, writings, memories – something to give to each of my close friends and family as my part of sharing my life with them. That idea has been ongoing with me for quite awhile now. I would either give it to them during a celebratory "good-bye" party, or bequeath the collages to them in my will. I'm not sure which, yet.

As for whether or not there is some other side to life after we die – it really doesn't matter – because life as we know it will now be ending…that's the bottom line. I just hate the idea of suffering in some nursing home with no one who really cares, that the money is the issue, or that lying in some hospital bed just waiting for the flat-line to appear does not sound too appealing to me.

I'm still partial to the collage idea, but I also like the life mask idea, too. Hmmm, maybe I ought to start getting some supplies together!
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:40 PM
Location: SoCal desert
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Originally Posted by Wisteria View Post
I realize it is an emotional topic,
The only thing that makes me emotional about this topic is being told what I can or cannot do.

I have never been a 'touchy-feely' person nor a religious person. The government or religions or doctors have no right to stop me from ending my life when I decide it's the right time. Nor do they have the right to 'counsel' me if I don't want it. If I want to take some pills and just go to sleep permanently, it's no one's business but my own.

Montana, Oregon, and Washington have made assisted suicide legal - but - with many obstacles. Why should I only have six months left before I can end things? Why must I be in constant pain? Why must I get someone else's permission?

I currently lead a normal happy life. But that could all change in an instant. Or I could get some really bad news from my doctor the next time I see him. I have a living will and a health care directive. Ten of my relatives have copies. My doctor has a copy. My lawyer has a copy.
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:48 PM
Location: Edina, MN, USA
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OH! We have a feisty one
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:50 PM
Location: Alaska
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My father had a stroke and ended up in a nursing home when my mom could no longer take care of him. Since I live in another state, I was only able to visit him once. He died after about 6 months there. One thing I came away with after my visit was that I really don't want to end up like my father in a similar condition. So, I'm debating about LTC coverage because there might be some conditions where assisted living would be palatable. However, I don't want to be in a condition where I'm just waiting to die.

I believe there are three states that allow assisted suicide, Montana, Oregon and Washington. I have no idea under what requirements though. I would assume residency is one, otherwise we'd hear more about people going to those states just to die. If we move after retirement, we'll likely end up in Oregon or Washington, so I'll have that option.
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:51 PM
Location: Sunshine N'Blue Skies
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I like your collage idea and think I would work on some of them too. I once gave my three girls "Memory Albums" and they asked me if " I was ok" ..........LOL

In our family we do the "Celebrations of life" funeral. The booklets given out show more happy times, many photos ...and include the family history. The Celebration has many people coming forward to talk and express the happy times and graciousness of the deceased family member. So many have "enjoyed" the celebration so much they have done it for their own family members.
This way of saying goodbye is so moving and loving.
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